Montgomery County Walkability Initiative
Did you know that throughout Montgomery County nearly 1 in 5 traffic fatalities involve a pedestrian or bicyclist? The walking environment or “walkability” of our roadways and communities plays a major role in providing safe, convenient connections for pedestrians and bicyclists. That is why the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) has been working on a new county initiative that focuses on walkability in the county.
WALK MONTCO WALKABILITY STUDY
On February 18, 2016, the Montgomery County Commissioners adopted Walk Montco, a walkability study for Montgomery County, as official county policy. The study, a major component of the county’s walkability initiative, corresponds to the goals of Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, Montgomery County’s new, award-winning comprehensive plan. Montco 2040 advocates for more sidewalks and pedestrian-oriented developments to improve transportation quality and expand options. The Walk Montco study focuses on walkability opportunities and challenges throughout Montgomery County. It recommends standards for improving walkability in general and offers specific recommendations for four selected focus areas. The plan also provides guidance on how to implement and fund walking improvements.
In early 2015, as part of the creation of the Walk Montco study, MCPC actively sought four community partners who wanted to examine the walkability of their communities to consider how to improve their pedestrian environment. We received outstanding submittals from 13 municipalities in four identified categories and selected the following four Focus Areas:
- Cheltenham Elementary School - Cheltenham Township (Safe Routes to School Category)
- Main Street - Hatfield Borough (Access to Downtowns Category)
- Noble Train Station - Abington Township (Access to Transit Category)
- Germantown Pike - Whitemarsh Township (Suburban Commercial Category)
A walkable community helps create a vibrancy that supports local businesses and neighborhoods while allowing people to leave their cars behind for many local trips. Walkable communities also are safer for all users of the street but especially for children, the elderly, and those with mobility limitations. Walkable streets also help decrease local traffic volumes, increase access to available public transit, and increase opportunities for healthier lifestyles and recreation.
A WALKABLE TOMORROW
2017 Walkability Webinar Series
Many planners, municipal leaders and staff, county residents, and others tuned into our Walk Montco Webinar Series, which ran from April through June 2017. The series, which was organized in conjunction with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, offered an opportunity for participants to learn more about how to make walking a safe and attractive mobility option in communities. Check out the webinar videos below:
Why Walking Matters
Walking is something that nearly everyone does daily. Not only is it our most reliable form of transportation, it's good for our collective health, has little impact on the environment, and is practically free. It makes sense that as a region we’d do all we could to make it as easy as possible to get people out and about—from our youngest (and most vulnerable) pedestrians to our seniors (who may not always feel as steady on their feet). You may know why walking matters, but convincing others can be a challenge. Tune in for useful strategies and to see how some planners are doing their part to promote walkability (and healthy decision making).
Solutions for Walkability Challenges
As Philadelphia continues its renaissance into a 24-hour city and its surrounding suburbs become more urbanized, working with developers to add pedestrian amenities to new construction (while filling in the missing pieces of existing pedestrian infrastructure) is the new norm. How are planners and municipal staff succeeding in filling in these gaps? And how can good design make walking easier for all of us?
Education and Outreach to Promote Walkability
If you have watched the first two walkability webinar videos, you know that walking—and having a safe space to do it in—is important for everyone’s mobility and health. But what’s the best way of communicating this? And more importantly, how can we educate about and promote walkability to the groups who rely on it the most—our region’s youth (who may be inexperienced in walking safely) and our seniors (who may feel uneasy about their physical ability to walk)?
As part of the creation of Walk Montco, MCPC developed a user-friendly online map that offered residents an opportunity to provide feedback on the community partner areas as well as any area in the county. Over 450 comments were received. Feedback included a variety of information, such as places where sidewalks and crosswalks were needed, intersections where vehicles travel too fast, and places where pedestrian connections to important destinations are needed. In addition to providing comments on the map, residents were also able to upload photos.
As part of the citizen involvement, a Walk Montco public event took place on October 26, 2015 in the Ambler Theater. Over 100 people attended this event, which featured two national experts on walkability—Scott Bricker, Executive Director of America Walks, and Chris Zimmerman, Vice President for Economic Development, Smart Growth America. Another featured speaker, Valerie Arkoosh, MD, MPH, Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners and Interim Medical Director of the Montgomery County Health Department, spoke on walkability and health. The draft Walk Montco plan was presented at this event, and participants had an opportunity to comment on the plan and question the featured speakers. Event information is listed below:
- Scott Bricker Presentation: America Walks - Making America a Great place to Walk
- Chris Zimmerman Presentation: Walkable Communities - The benefits in Arlington Virginia and
elsewhere around the US
- Walk Montco Draft Plan Presentation
- Event Photos